My Apostolic Apology Vol. 3 – The Curse of The Episcopacy

Apologetics is that branch of Theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Therefore, my Apostolic Apology is in defense of the ongoing development of and the redefining of the episcopacy considering scriptural, biblical, and careful exegetical analysis. I use the term apostolic in its’ root form to refer to the teachings and practices of the early Christian Apostles, their disciples, who we later refer to as Church Fathers, and what later is referred to as Apostolic Tradition.

It is important that we face episcopal leadership with a clear head and develop an understanding that this episcopal mandate is serious and needed. The episcopacy has been somewhat of a curse because of the way it is been handled by corrupt and non-spirit filled leaders throughout the centuries. So, this subject should be approached from the standpoint that we develop the history, usage, and the very nature of what the episcopal mandate details.

During what we term the Apostolic and Sub-apostolic ages, the dynamics of the Holy Spirit leading, empowering, and mandating attention was powerful and necessary for the growth and development of the Early Church. In fact, the first two centuries could very well be termed the era of miracles. Especially, as we dissect the Apostolic Age. Let us keep in mind that there were no Church structures or an organized leadership structure. The Primitive Church was marked by the eye-witness accounts of the original Apostles to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; to the amazing identification of genuine love among its’ followers; and to the struggle of maintaining and enforcing strong fellowship in the midst of tremendous persecution.  Dennis M. Golphin

In order to spread this newfound “Faith” believers had to relocate often but maintain a testimony of comfort and peace in the presence of hostile reception (Acts 8:1). This early band of believers faced two main issues that kept division in the ranks. Because this started out as a kingdom message the pressure was on to announce a continuation of the Jewish interpretation of kingdom. As a result, many of the first Christians were primarily Jewish and rejected Gentile converts to the new “Faith.” The Apostles emerged as a collegiate leadership in Acts 6; 8; 11; and 15 to settle the divisions. Later as bands of believers gathered in different locations and the core of the church turned Gentile things also shifted doctrinally, as society viewed Christianity as just another Jewish cult. In fact, it wasn’t until the late first century that Rome began to observe a distinction between Christians and Jews.

I must pause here and mention that the mandate of the Apostles was to spread the “Faith” not to govern the believers. So, we do not have a collection of churches formed by the Apostles as pastors or leaders in the NT. As a matter of fact, church history records the travels of the “twelve” as they went about spreading the “Gospel” throughout the known world.  As they pioneered their missionary work, we really do not have any scriptural evidence churches were planted by them, but many were erected in their honor as many were martyred for their testimony.

In our canon, Paul is the model church planter and “bishop” through his preaching, teaching, and administration by epistles in and out of prison. Paul, however, was not governing church structures, but communities of believers discovering fellowship, relationships, discipline, and worship. It should be noted here that Paul was not able to be a general spokesman of the church of his day. He rejected being associated with the foundational Apostles out of humility and they did not trust him anyway.

Most of Paul’s teachings were later regarded as inspired because of the fruit of his labors and much of the NT is made up of his writings. I do not have time here to explore all the various dimensions of ideas or theories, but just let me address Ephesians 4:11 in context. Paul is not advocating a hierarchy of leaders, as much as he is developing a leadership flow from Jesus Christ. The theme of this chapter is unity, not authority.

Over the next couple of centuries, it was left to gifted teachers to advocate structured leadership as a result of the rapid growth of the church during adverse persecution and martyrdom. In Carthage, North Africa, early church theologian Tertullian is quoted as saying, “that persecution strengthened the church.” For those who wanted to be bishops in this era, it is historically recorded that you would be martyred as an example to stop church growth. Bishops and deacons emerged as the accepted leaders during this difficult period of growth and unrest.

However, with the collapse of the Roman Empire in 432 A.D., the church found itself as both the civil and the ecclesiastical authority of its day. So, with the decline of miracles and the rise of Organizational authority, the church was on a course in the West to diminish the power of the Holy Spirit guiding the process.

Over the next ten centuries between schisms and power plays the episcopacy became corrupt. Pope Leo IX in the 10th century, became notable for efforts to end the practice of simony (buying of religious offices). The name is taken from Simon Magus (Acts 8:18), who endeavored to buy from the Apostles the power of conferring the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The episcopacy during the Medieval period became noted for corruption and wealth. The early Apostles criteria for church leadership in Acts 6, was that they are filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not see evidence of many pious episcopates throughout this era. The more world power church leadership obtained the more corrupt they became. The church started deteriorating from the inside and diminished the authority of the Holy Spirit.  So, the reformers were crying for change in leadership styles and a return to Apostolic traditions and doctrine.

In our day, there is been a resurge of the episcopal and apostolic protocol in the church proper. The real issue is whether we want to lead or follow the Holy Spirit’s direction. In every generation, we are faced with a crusade to return to prior moves or operations of the church. But is there a mandate to look back or press forward? What really is the future for a church that has become more marginalized over the centuries as it has become the largest religion in the world by population? What is the Holy Spirit mandating for the future of a dead church? And are we ready for a change that may not fit our egos nor our empire aspirations?

I propose a different structural viewpoint that puts episcopal leaders in the position of servants, not royalty. As priests who are interceding for a lame church and seeking the “face” not just the “hand” of God in prayer and worship. Not replacing our High Priest as intercessor but assisting an effort to take earth to heaven as Christ succeeded in bringing heaven to earth. In a culture where everybody is attempting to be a spokesman for God, where are the priests who can appeal to the heart of God for salvation, healing, and deliverance in our day?

join the counter-cultural revolution here

 

 

 

 

 

My Apostolic Apology Vol 2 – Leadership Issues

Apologetics is that branch of Theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Therefore, my Apostolic Apology is in defense of the ongoing development of and the redefining of the episcopacy considering scriptural, biblical, and careful exegetical analysis. I use the term apostolic in its’ root form to refer to the teachings and practices of the early Christian Apostles and their disciples, who we later refer to as Church Fathers.

The continual task we have before us is to define, redefine, and evaluate where we are concerning our position and our commission, considering, scripture, church history, culture, and tradition. So, when we seek to become critical of practices, traditions, and order in the Church, we need a measuring rod (canon) to regulate our discussion. Therefore, I have decided to continue to expound on issues on the complexity of episcopal leadership in the Church today.   

Patriarch

One of the repeated confusing discussions is how church leadership advanced over time in the Early Church. There are those who think the early Apostles ruled as a governing board through the five-fold ministry gifts we see in Eph 4:11, and that a return to that order will fix the issues of the Church world today. But in truth, the office of the episcopacy developed over time as a disenfranchised Church struggled to survive amidst mounting persecution and unpopularity from a corrupt worldview. While others saw a pluralistic board of elders as the answer to the rising corruption of the episcopacy in The Medieval Church period; or maybe either trustees, deacons, or local congregations as the ruling authority in a Church culture for an ongoing solution in Modern times.

The truth is the Early Church was birthed with the power and majesty of The Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Blanketed in a culture of Jewish worship seasons, The Holy Spirit engineered an outpouring during the greatest attendance of Jews to one of their most important major feasts in the 1st century. Amidst the shallow of Pentecost, the Church was birthed along cultural, historical, and traditional religious Jewish customs and rituals of the day. Out of the shadow of Old Testament prophetic announcements, the New Testament Church became a source of spiritual fulfillment of global magnitude. So, Luke records the early struggle of the Church to find identity and purpose while being rejected both within Jewish society and Roman dominance. 

As the Church expanded, so did the need to structure a new leadership model. It was not mandated by any organized vote; it grew out of necessity and complexity as many were being martyred for their Faith. What started in Palestine as small house gatherings was now expanding to large groups in cities all over the Roman empire.

With the deaths of the Apostles and the age of miracles, and the diminishing season of signs and wonders closing, a new leadership mandate in the form of “teachers” began to take root and establish new voices for a shattered Church. From these voices was mandated a new leadership structure. But within the development of the major styles of the episcopal office in the Institutionalized Church since the 3nd century, it has become painfully impossible to have a single code of ethics governing for all episcopates.

However, most of what we see today as episcopal is unfortunately not established along doctrinal truths and true liturgical practices to make them relevant. Whether we are talking about Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican styles or methods, it is really the doctrinal emphasis behind the pomp and circumstances of the literary of worship, not just the performance or traditional practices. As a result. leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ is complex today.

So, where do we go from here? Healing the divisions that divide the church through prayer is a start. I suggest looking for a place called there while we get our attention off the glitter and focus on the substance of the office. Because instead of the “Church” becoming the “Light” it was intended to represent, it became known as a dysfunctional system of what not to do instead of a system of what to do. Maybe a Church-wide overall is in order.

My Apostolic Apology – Vol 1 Episcopal Rank

Apologetics is that branch of Theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Therefore, my Apostolic Apology is in defense of the ongoing development of and the redefining of the episcopacy considering scriptural, biblical, and careful exegetical analysis. I use the term apostolic in its’ root form to refer to the teachings and practices of the early Christian Apostles, their disciples, who we later refer to as Church Fathers, and what later is referred to as Apostolic Tradition.

BishopClergydmgThere is always a need to define, redefine, evaluate where we are concerning our position and our commission, in light of, scripture, history, and tradition. Therefore, I have decided to form The Global Conference of Bishops as a communion of episcopates uniting around true Apostolic tradition. I submit being a bishop is much more than merely looking the part, we must be the part. That means along with titles for status we need a character for example.

The normal responsibility and authority of leadership in the NT rested with the bishops – elders – pastors – deacons; but if we are interested in pursuing biblical patterns of leadership, we must be concerned to demonstrate observable growth not only in our grasp of truth but also in our lived discipline (1 Tim. 4:14 – 16) of the Truth. If you are not familiar with Church history, then you will go off on a tandem fighting everything by scripture only and not recognize the continual growth and pattern changes of the Church over time.

We must comprehend that spiritual leadership, far from lording it over others (Matt. 20:25 – 28), is a balanced combination of oversight (1 Tim. 4:11 – 13; 6:17 – 19; Titus 3:9 – 11) and example (1 Tim. 4:12; 6:6 – 11, 17 – 18; 1 Pet. 5:1 – 4) which, far from being negating are mutually reinforcing.
For instance, If you lived in the first four centuries of the church, being a bishop meant how well you were going to die for the Faith. Since most of the early bishops were martyred for the cause of Christ in this era. If you lived in the Middle Ages, bishops were defined as being both the civil and ecclesiastical authority of the known world. In fact, society functioned under both civil government and canon law during this period, which led to widespread corruption. In the Dark Ages and ultimately, the Reformation period, being a bishop was viewed as what corrupted the Church and represented the failed leadership of a glorious era of Church influence on the society of its’ day.

In our Modern-Day vernacular, being a bishop is almost like being a part of a new trend that rewards us with popularity, authority, wealth, and self-esteem. But are we fulfilling the mandate of Jesus Christ, our King, and leading a dark world to the light of His Glory by the light we shine on ourselves? I am not coming down on the episcopacy, just pointing out some abuses that affect all of us as leaders and hinder our effectiveness for evangelism and stability in the Church of Jesus Christ.

In the last 30 years, I have never seen so many people wanting to become some titled recognizable giant in the Kingdom. If they don’t ascend to the bishopric, it is by some other recognized title or self-appointed title that justifies who they are. Again, I beg, if you are not talking to God, how can you talk for God?

So, the questions are – Who really has the authority in the Church? Is it vested in titles or demonstration? Is it credentialed or simply proclaimed? Is it a product of supernatural sideshow tricks or simply the ability to proclaim through intellectual prowess? Is it based on gender or race? Does one have to believe a certain doctrine or worship in a particular fashion?

I really don’t know if we will settle the authority issues in the Church before Jesus comes or not. All I KNOW – is that we need to get a handle on leadership before the whole Church becomes too fragmented to reassemble and make herself whole.

First, the tradition of the episcopacy is so confusing that one must understand the difference in disciplines as the episcopacy unfolded. Historically, the Church developed what was termed collegiate episcopacy, based on a college of bishops governing the general body of Christ in different regions. As Christianity began identifying itself separate from its’ Jewish roots, it started embracing varying leadership models from the Apostolic leadership to the episcopal rule, beginning late first century on.

Along with the developing role of the episcopacy, also came the emerging role of the archiepiscopacy. Regarding its’ historical origin, some writers wrongly point to Timothy and Titus, the disciples of Paul, as to the first archbishops in the Church. Probably they were metropolitans in the wider sense of the term, one for Asia Minor, the other for the island of Crete. But it remains impossible to assign the exact date when archbishops, as we now use the term, were first appointed. It is true that metropolitans are mentioned as a well-known institution in the Church by the Council of Nicæa (325) in its fourth, fifth and sixth canons, and by the Council of Antioch (341) whose seventh canon is a classical passage in this matter.

It reads: “The bishops of every province must be aware that the bishop presiding in the metropolis has charge of the whole province; because all who have business come together from all quarters to the metropolis. For this reason, it is decided that he should, according to the ancient and recognized canon of our fathers, do nothing beyond what concerns their respective dioceses and the districts belonging thereto”, etc. But it cannot be denied that even at, this period the term “metropolitan” was used indiscriminately for all higher ranks above the simple episcopate. It was thus applied also to patriarchs and primates.

The same must be said of the term “archbishop” which does not occur in the present meaning before the sixth century, although the office of archbishop or metropolitan in the stricter sense, indicating a hierarchical rank above the ordinary bishops but below the primate and patriarch, was already substantially the same in the fifth century as it is today. A peculiar condition obtained in Africa, where the archiepiscopal office was not attached to a certain see, the metropolis, but where it always devolved upon the senior bishop of the province, whatever see he might occupy. He was called “the first or chief bishop”, or also “the bishop of the first or chief see”.

The history of the episcopate developed into at least five major divisions over time:

1. Catholic Episcopacy – Papacy
2. Orthodox Episcopacy – Collegiate order Patriarchal
3. Protestant – AME – Methodist Prelate – Presiding
4. Anglican – Episcopal Archbishop
5. Pentecostal – Convergence Apostles Prelates Presiders

Within the development and major styles of the episcopal office in the Church, it has become universally impossible to have a single code of ethics governing all episcopates. However, accepting uniform guidelines have given some structure to the office. Most of what we see today as episcopal has to established along doctrinal and liturgical practices to make them relevant. The GCOB will establish its’ own discipline and hierarchy for the development of this communion.

 

Convergence or Confusion

527675_359957237425791_261686721_nThe modern concept of The Convergence Movement was inspired by the spiritual pilgrimages of modern Evangelical writers like Thomas HowardRobert E. WebberPeter E. Gillquist and others. It refers primarily to a move among evangelical and charismatic churches in the United States to blend charismatic worship with liturgies from the Book of Common Prayer and other liturgical sources.

This blending is the subject of great debate. What is really meant by convergence and what are the definitions of the major components? The Convergence Movement is not the Ecumenical Movement. Christian unity has been termed “ecumenical” from the Greek ‘oikumenikos’, ‘of the inhabited earth. This term means universal, worldwide in a common sense.  So to have ecumenical interests is to have the interest of the worldwide church at heart.  But for many in the three main divisions of Christianity, Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, the word is associated with the idea of compromise. It is assumed that ecumenism means finding the lowest common denominator of the Christian faith and having to give up the rest. It will continue to be, necessary for the various factions and denominations of God’s church to dialog and commence tearing down the walls of division and hopefully finding – “Christ” at the core of Christianity and daily becoming “Like Him” and not making Christ like us!

But convergence seeks a different path. The three major components of this particular blending are Evangelical, Liturgical, and Charismatic worship styles and practices. It is believed that each of these expressions of the Church serve some useful purpose in uniting the Church of Jesus Christ to an authentic Faith.

Let’s define the terms before we blend the concepts.

Evangelical refers to relating or belonging to any Protestant Christian church that emphasizes the authority of the Bible and salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Evangelicals believe that each individual has a need for spiritual rebirth and personal commitment to Jesus Christ as savior, through faith in his atoning death on the cross (commonly, although not necessarily, through a specific conversion experience). They emphasize strict orthodoxy (following of established rules or traditions) on cardinal doctrines, morals, and especially on the authority of the Bible. Many Evangelicals follow a traditional, interpretation of the Bible and insist on its inerrancy (freedom from error in history as well as in faith and morals). The term Evangelicalism has been a source of controversy, and the precise relationship or distinction between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism has been disputed.

The Charismatic Movement refers to that body of Christians seeking direct spiritual experiences. It describes worship characterized by a quest for inspired and ecstatic experiences such as healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. The individuals who make up the movement believe that they have been “filled” or “baptized” with the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands.  The signs of this baptism include such spiritual gifts as speaking in tongues, or glossolalia, prophecy, healing, interpretation of tongues, and discernment of spirits.

Liturgy is a body of rites (or system of ceremonial procedures) prescribed for formal public worship. Although the term is sometimes applied to Jewish worship, it is especially associated with the prayers and ceremonies used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, also known as Holy Eucharist. During the first three centuries of the Christian era, the rite of the church was comparatively fluid (or very likely changing), based on various accounts of the Last Supper. By the 4th century the various traditions crystallized into four liturgies, the Antiochene, or Greek, the Alexandrian, the Roman, and the Gallican, from which all others have been derived.

Christianity is a many layered Faith and many components have been introduced and battled over historically and biblically.  We are always faced with tradition and revelation. The Convergence Movement though not new in concept is new in acceptance. I believe like everything, there is a time and season. If we accept that the concept of merging worship practices as a reality, then we can begin a new era in the Church.

A certain harbor in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and cliffs. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights were mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly aligned and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed up the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights, he knows he’s off course and in danger.

Maybe there is a need to align these streams to prepare for a united church and maybe this is the beginning of more confusion. Whatever the flow we must reclaim historical Christianity and maintain scriptural integrity. I maintain that balance is the word that must be embraced. Like that harbor which needs all the lights to align to give direction, hopefully the Church can discern the majesty of the Glory to be revealed through combined worship.

Authority In The Church

Church of Jesus Christ the King in Boleslawiec...

There is always a need to define, redefine, evaluate where we are concerning our position and our commission. I submit being a bishop is much more than merely looking the part, we have to be the part. That means along with titles for status we need character for example.

The normal responsibility and authority of leadership in the NT rested with the bishops – elders – pastors – deacons; but if we are interested in pursuing biblical patterns of leadership, we must be concerned to demonstrate observable growth not only in our gasp of truth but also in our lived discipline (1 Tim. 4:14 – 16) of the Truth. We have to comprehend that spiritual leadership, far from lording it over others (Matt. 20:25 – 28), is a balanced combination of oversight (1 Tim. 4:11 – 13; 6:17 – 19; Titus 3:9 – 11) and example (1 Tim. 4:12; 6:6 – 11, 17 – 18; 1 Pet. 5:1 – 4) which, far from being negating are mutually reinforcing.

If you lived in the first four centuries of the church, being a bishop meant how well you were going to die for the Faith. Since most of the early bishops were martyred for the cause of Christ in this era.  If you lived in the Middle Ages, bishops were defined as being both the civil and ecclesiastical authority of the known world. In fact, society functioned under both civil government and canon law, which led to wide spread corruption. In the Dark Ages and ultimately, the Reformation period, being a bishop was seen as what corrupted the Church and represented failed leadership of a glorious era of Church influence on the society of its’ day.

In Modern Day vernacular, being a bishop is almost like being a part of a new trend that rewards us with popularity, authority, wealth, and self-esteem. But are we fulfilling the mandate of Jesus Christ, our King, and leading a dark world to the light of His Glory by the light we shine on ourselves?

I am not coming down on the episcopacy, just pointing out some abuses that affect all of us as leaders and hinder our effectiveness for evangelism and stability in the Church of Jesus Christ.

In the last 20 years, I have never seen so many people wanting to become some titled recognizable giant in the Kingdom. If they don’t ascend to the bishopric, it is by some other recognized title or self-appointed title that justifies who they are. Again I beg, if you are not talking to God, how can you talk for God?

So the questions are – Who really has the authority in the Church? Is it vested in titles or demonstration? Is it credentialed or simply proclaimed? Is it a product of supernatural side show tricks or simply the ability to proclaim through intellectual prowess? Is it based on gender or race? Does one have to believe a certain doctrine or worship in a particular fashion?

I really don’t know if we will settle the authority question in the Church before Jesus comes or not. All I KNOW – is that we need to get a handle on leadership before the whole Church becomes too fragmented to reassemble and make herself whole.